Category Archives: Stanley Cup

Kings-Devils Set for Stanley Cup Showdown

It’s quite unexpected, but expected to become a legendary matchup. The Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils have punched their ticket to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. Very few anticipated these two teams would be good, let alone great. Very few foretold these two cities would gain hockey elite status. Few doubt that this will be a runaway series for either team. Welcome to the thinking fan’s style of hockey.

The Los Angeles Kings barely made it into the playoffs coming in at the No. 8 seed. Representing a new generation and geographical era of beach-leagues, the Kings have given Southern California exactly what they knew they had in their midst. Billboards lined the Hollywood Hills, Kings jerseys were sported on Rodeo Drive and talk of rising stars became household names. LaLa Land is riding the wave of success.

The Kings railed through the Stanley Cup Playoffs on a mission. Only taking one hit to the Phoenix Coyotes, the Kings momentum is not a streak rather a mantra. There are so many factors that will give the Kings the edge in this series, but the strength of this team is their versatility, confidence and creativity.

Captain Dustin Brown has been an underrated player for years. Brown is the epitome of the quiet leader and workhorse. He isn’t the grandstander expecting to be the leading scorer on the team. He shares the victory equally and rallies behind the skilled talent assembled on the ice. Brown is both versatile and veracious. He can hit a goal from any angle and hit an opponent with every angle. The captain drew the most penalties in the league this season, yet won’t waste a scoring chance bantering with an opponent. Brown is the freight train you didn’t see coming.

Brown’s line with  Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams have combined for 42 points in 14 games and a plus-32. They’ve produced four shorthanded goals and three game-winning goals. In the playoffs, expect the Kings to dazzle. This line has scored the first goal of the game five times, which sets the tone for the each game in the series.

Los Angeles has a sturdy offense, but their netminder is unstoppable. Vezina finalist Jonathan Quick is the remaining finalist still standing. Though he’s hit some rough patches, Quick led the league with 10 shutouts, finished second with a 1.95 goals-against average, plus added a .929 save percentage (5th overall). Quick can take down Marty Brodeur. He’s really the secret to their success. The goalie dominated in the first-round of the Western Conference playoffs ousting the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks.

New Jersey has rebounded from terrible times. Coming in at the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference, no one saw this team surviving into the playoffs. After beating the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, the Devils are the new studs in the stable. Headed by General Manager Lou Lamoriello, the Devils are experiencing a renaissance. This is great news for Devils fans, Newark and New Jersey. Controversy surrounding the team’s bankruptcy has been prominent. Lamoriello’s acquisition of forward Ilya Kovalchuk spurred a battle with the NHL costing the team a draft pick and hefty fines. Who’s looking good now? The New Jersey Devils SB Nation blog  In Lou We Trust exemplifies all the the Devils represent. Lou has stood behind his team and the city of Newark. Though many doubted his vision, Lou has proven his vision was genius.

Captain quandaries plagued the Devils early in the season. It had been rumored that star forward Zach Parise was looking for a way out. Kovalchuk vs. Parise became the question as the season progressed. Parise won in large part to appease his level of commitment and experience with New Jersey. As the matinee-idol, Parise is the chosen one to become the future of this franchise.

New Jersey is the New Jersey Devils. Hard work, mental toughness, resilience, and serving up the honest play will make New Jersey a devilish opponent for Hockeywood. Brodeur and Quick will ignite the veteran-rookie debate as the goaltender has achieved significant status in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

Expect the series to last seven games. Los Angeles will take home the Stanley Cup.

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How West Coast Hockey has Won

Beach leagues and desert dreams have put the Los Angeles Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes in a Western Conference final worth the wait. Making deals and trades to acquire players who are now showing their worth creates a must series to watch whether a west coast fan or not. Goaltenders Jonathan Quick and Mike Smith have dazzled and proven that the goaltender isn’t out of style in the playoffs.

Vezina finalist, Jonathan Quick, has been the backbone of the Kings all season. With the addition of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, the chemistry of the duo have raised hope in raising the Stanley Cup in LaLa Land. The Kings are stacked with Stanley Cup winners and playoff veterans.

The Kings arrived at the final with huge upsets the No. 1-seeded Vancouver Canucks and No.-2 seeded St. Louis Blues. Only captain Dustin Brown, Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty hadn’t won a playoff series. Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene lost in the Cup final with Edmonton in 2006 and Mike Richards and Jeff Carter lost with Philadelphia in 2010. Dustin Penner also won a Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.

Justin Williams has emerged as a scoring threat in the playoff run, as he did with the Carolina Hurricanes in defeating the Edmonton Oilers in the 2006 Cup finals. Oilers at the time, Stoll and Greene are happy to be on his side of the fence for this run. Expect Williams to be a factor in the win.

Rob Scuderi was a “piece” of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2009 triumph. He got the nickname “piece” after he misspoke while intending to say he was just “one piece” of the team. Colin Fraser played three games of the Chicago Blackhawks’ 2010 Cup run, but what a run to be in.

The Kings have creativity and confidence on their side.

The Phoenix Coyotes have Mike Smith, a Vezina snub, to tackle the goals that the Kings will be tossing his way. Phoenix has battled ownership issues, dismal fan attendance, and a captain who didn’t have the best few seasons, until now. Forwards Radim Vrbata, Antoine Vermette and veteran Ray Whitney are solid, but the defensive talents of Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson are holding the ‘Yotes together. The Coyotes beat Nashville and Chicago to move on, but they didn’t sweep like the Kings.

Finally, better-than-good hockey has arrived in the west. The Western Conference has been plagued with underachievement for years and not being taken seriously. Kudos to those players who stuck with their teams, and congrats to the fans who have supported the beach and desert teams.

This will be an exciting series, but the Kings will win in 5.

Follow me on The Hockey Writers for analysis, predictions and commentary on the  Eastern Conference Final between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2- Breaking New Ground

New teams  have graced this run for the Cup. Unexpected losses and battles in overtime have created a fresh group of teams who have finally broken hallowed ground. No. 1 seeded Vancouver could not make the case against the surging Los Angeles Kings and the defending Stanley Cup Bruins were eliminated at the hands of Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals. What to expect in the Round 2 is more of the unexpected.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings saw their dreams dashed, while the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues have had dream seasons. This season launched a new generation of players and teams turning the tide on the old favorites and diminishing  dynasties.

Eastern Conference:

(1) New York Rangers vs. (7) Washington Capitals-
We’ve been here before. In 2009, the Rangers blew a 3-1 series lead and lost in seven, then last season the No. 1-seeded Caps smoked the eighth-seeded Rangers in five games. This season, The Rangers were caught off quard by the Ottawa Senators in Round 1 but found their style and won. The Caps will have an opportunity for Ovechkin to take control of his destiny and emerge as the elite player he knows he can be. Goaltending is the test. New York’s Henrik Lundqvist, finalist for the Vezina, is no doubt a Stanley Cup goaltender. Hank epitomizes what the best of the best can be. Braden Holtby has soared. His performance to beat Tim Thomas is enough to lift the Caps, but can he sustain?
This will be a tight race: Rangers in 7.

(5) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils-
The Devils will not be able to stop Philly’s Claude Giroux. While the Devils impressed in their win over the Florida Panthers, it was luck. Yes, Adam Henrique  is good, Marty Brodeur is a legendary goalie and so on….but it’s not their year. The Flyers are too good to lose this round. Philly’s only weak spot is the goaltending. Bryzgalov needs to stay healthy and on top of his game, because he was brought to the Flyers to win the Cup.
Flyers will prove in 5.

Eastern Final: Rangers vs. Flyers- Flyers in 7

Western Conference:

(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (4) Nashville Predators-
Nashville beat Detroit finally getting over the hump that has haunted their playoff run. Pekka Rinne is a Vezina finalist and deservedly so. Barry Trotz is one of the best coaches in the NHL and will take his team far. The Coyotes can brag about Dave Tippett and his fabulous coaching. Goaltender Mike Smith was a snub for the Vezina. Smith’s season was incredible and he could use this to deflect goals from the Kostitsyn boys and Shea Weber. While Nashville has greater player depth, the Coyotes will not go down without a fight.
Nashville in 6.

(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings-
Two Cinderella teams and the best game going in this round. Blues have an amazing crew of players with depth and determination. Goaltending is solid with Brian Elliott in for Jaroslav Halak, but it’s not what Quick can bring. It’s tough to not pick the Blues, but their campaign for the President’s Trophy ran aground. The Kings have Jeff Carter and Mike Richards united to win a Cup, throw in Anze Kopitar and you have an offensive power that even Alex Pietrangelo can’t contain. The Kings have Vezina finalist Jonathan Quick, who could be better than Rinne or Lundqvist in the end. LaLa Land has produced a star studded No. 8 seed. Bad news for the Kings is that no eighth-seeded team has ever won a Cup, so the odds are stacked against them. They’ll put up a fight.
Blues in 6.

Western Final: Blues vs. Preds- Blues in 6

Wow, what an opportunity for these teams to have made it over the hump of the Detroit Red Wings, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Vancouver Canucks. The passionate play of the finals will slow down, particulary in the Western Conference. The Eastern Conference may put up the dukes often if the Flyers and Rangers square off. The discipline hasn’t hindered the culture hockey completely, so don’t expect the professionalism and courtesy to suddenly appear.

On the Road to the Stanley Cup

Heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs, there’s a little for everyone. From traditional old-school matchups like the Pens and Flyers, to irksome bumps a team must get over like the pressure Nashville faces with Detroit. An interesting pairing in the West puts the Kings and Canucks in a must-see series.

The season starts here and now with a clean slate heading towards the coveted Stanley Cup. Whatever the ranking,the odds, the previous wins, teams have this chance once no matter what happened a few days ago. It’s now or never. The honor of making it to the playoffs can change the course of any team’s season.

East:

(4)Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5)Philadelphia Flyers– One of the best series to follow. The battle of Pennsylvania is always a regular season blowout. The Flyers have the talent in Claude Giroux and the moxy of Scott Hartnell to take on the challenge. With Sidney Crosby back for the Pens, Pittsburgh has the extra power-forward to take the points. Goaltending seems balanced in both nets. Pittsburgh can’t lose with Crosby. Pens win in 5.

(6)New Jersey Devils vs. (3)Florida Panthers The Devils have done a tremendous job this season rounding out their talent and finding ways to win. Though Brodeur was shaky in net early on, goaltending looks fixed for now. The Panthers have the momentum and the spirit to clinch this series. Panthers in 4.

(8)Ottawa Senators vs. (1)New York Rangers– New York clinched the East, so that would make this an easy series win…..not so fast. The Senators have had an upswing that could have them be the upset team. The Rangers may have some concerns and could take this for granted. Henrik Lundqvist wants this and has the tools to finish it. Rangers in 5.

(7)Washington Capitals vs. (2)Boston Bruins– Ovechkin and crew made it by an inch. Boston knows the path and with the depth, even top players for the Caps can’t get it done. Bruins in 4.

West:

(4)Nashville Predators vs. (5)Detroit Red Wings– Nashville always comes to face the Wings in the playoffs at some point. Detroit is the Preds’ brick wall. This year, with home-ice advantage, Nashville have the opportunity to swing it their way. Don’t underestimate the Wings performance this season. Hockeytown finds a way to win. Wings in 7.

(8)Los Angeles Kings vs. (1)Vancouver Canucks- Winner of the President’s Trophy, Vancouver is on a journey to win their destiny. Last season, the Canucks  lost in game 7 releasing chaos into the streets of Vancouver. Canucks can’t afford to lose again. The Kings have made an impressive run and will be formidable opponents. Quick can beat Luongo. Carter, Richards and Kopitar can beat Kesler, Burrows and at least one Sedin. The Canucks will take the series, but not without a fight in 6.

(7)San Jose Sharks vs. (2)St. Louis Blues– St. Louis will win. That’s all I can say. The Sharks have been a disappointment in many areas. The Blues have been an amazing team this season. Blues sweep.

(6)Chicago Blackhawks vs. (3) Phoenix Coyotes– Tight fight. The Coyotes just seem to find a way to win, but mostly goaltender Mike Smith has found a way to win and a nod for the Vezina. Chicago may not have it. The momentum going in to the series will determine the outcome. Coyotes in 7.

With the Western Conference team surge, the competition is fierce. The Eastern Conference has been the victim of sharp criticism for the sagging efforts of the traditionally winning side. New York serves as a good measurement of the talents of the Eastern teams. The West is growing in strength and the race was tight. The East brings the skill and sharpshooters,  while the West brings the intensity and passion play. What a great season it has been! Good luck to your playoff team and enjoy the games.

Instant Cup Classic: Red Wings vs. NY Rangers

Stanley Cup predictions are streaming in now, right? If it’s too early, oh well, but this blog is predicting and hoping in an instant Cup Classic between the best team in the West and the best in the East: Wings vs. Rangers.

Each team could fall from their top standing, but with the records and winning streaks, the chances are looking pretty good right now. The Red Wings just acquired another defensive dude in Kyle Quincey who is happy to return to the Wings after a stint in Colorado. The Avalanche have had so many delays in their success that talented players get lost in a sea of mediocracy.  Paul Stastny is a great player, but where’s the Cup for him?

Armed with Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Lidstrom, newer additions in Ian White, Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader have the Wings on a home-winning streak. In net, Jimmy Howard has returned after a broken finger after Joey MacDonald filled in. Despite the injury, the Wings were able to maintain an excellent record- a sure sign of a Cup team. The question is whether or not the goaltending tandem is really Stanly Cup material, because the rest of the team can hold its own. MacDonald let plenty of goals in; it was the defensive line and offensive scoring keeping the Wings in the game.

The New York Rangers are the best they have ever been. Torts and the crew have a system in place that has fans happy and the standings in their favor. Weathering a few losses, and trade rumors, New York is finally creating a team they have wanted to build based on a similar system the Wings use. When all the pieces fit, the entire puzzle falls into place and it works. Henrik Lundqvist is stellar in net and occasionally needs a break, but backup Biron holds it together.

Both teams have a great traveling fan base, both are Original 6, and both would draw ratings. There are enough high-profiled players who would make this year’s Stanley Cup run a media frenzy and great storytelling material.

On March 21st, the Detroit Red Wings will visit Madison Square Garden for a glimpse into what the playoff run could look like. This season, the defending Champions Bruins are still in the race, but as March approaches the time is narrowing on opportunities. Florida has rebuilt and looks promising. Whether the Panthers can keep the momentum going is another factor no one is certain of.

In the West, Vancouver could make it a close race. After last year’s mishap in Vancouver, the Canucks must repair that gap if they hope to beat the Wings. While St. Louis has come back strong, Nashville is closing in.

A dark horse may appear as a Penguins or perhaps the Chicago Blackhawks will regain their energy and make it a race. Whomever gets the opportunity will be making the case in the next few weeks, so hold on for the fury of the playoffs.

Canucks’ luck or Bruins’s ruin?

The Vancouver Canucks’s Kevin Bieksa took a lucky shot and won a trip to the Stanley Cup final. Some say they were lucky and not deserving of the win. Hello, the Canucks won the President’s Trophy. Another view hoisted the Canucks as ruining the NHL market in the US….Americans have a long way to go before they are “in love” with hockey like the Canadians.

So do the Canucks just have luck or are they really all that talented? This hockey freak picked them to win it all. Vancouver will win in 5. Game 6 tops if Boston gets lucky with a skilled driller by Horton or Krecji.

Vancouver’s ability to close the deal has gelled. The Canucks top line, Sedin-Sedin-Burrows, have combined for more points in the playoffs than any other line. Throw in Ryan Kesler and it’s the cherry on top. The newbies, Chris Higgins and Cody Hodgson are call-ups who have stood up to the task. Defense from Alex Edler, Christian Ehrhoff , Dan Hamhuis and Aaron Rome will give the Bruins a run.

But really it’s about the goaltending between two Vezina Trophy finalist- Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas. Luongo has won an Olympic gold medal on home ice and has the feel for Rogers Arena. He has hit some slumps, but is usually consistent. Thomas flailed a bit early in the year but convalesced into the oompa loompa he is in net. I give this battle to Luongo. And the Vezina.

Vancouver has fluidity, while Boston can look clunky. Boston’s dangerous weapons are to be feared and revered by the Canucks if they want to win. David Krecji is one of those quiet underrated players who shouldn’t be considered in that manner. Nathan Horton has been a remarkable gift from the Florida Panthers. Not only does Horton score, but he strategizes with pizzazz carrying seven points in the series with Tampa Bay along with Krecji.

You can’t talk about the Bruins without mentioning their captain, the road block that is Zdeno Chara. He’s received some heat this season for not playing like a top defenseman and the embroiled Paciorety incident, yet he still has been nominated for the Norris. Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference have made a difference on the blue line to the net for Boston’s defense. Ference gets in there like a ferret.

The Stanley Cup this year will return to the Western Conference and to Canada.

Let the Octopi Fly

The Detroit Red Wings were the first to advance to  the second-round of NHL playoffs. Energized, the Wings swept the Coyotes with the depth in player skill the Wings are known for. The break means rest, which is essential for the Wings as Zetterberg and Franzen will make a return. The Red Wings do it every year and will continue to do so with the type of managment and care for their players. Red Wings fans are happy fans:Lidstrom was nominated for the Norris Trophy and Pavel Datsyuk nominated for a Selke. Jimmy Howard is holding his own and can keep the Sharks out of net to win.

San Jose has been enjoyable to watch, but the LA Kings stalled the Sharks.With Anze Kopitar out, the nimble netminder Quick is just one piece of the puzzle that fits so well in Los Angeles. This team continues to display the type of fan base and talent base to become an elite league leader. Going toe-to-toe with the Sharks was a bit unexpected. The Sharsk are tired, but pumped they made in through to the next round. Sharks defeated the Wings in three of the four games played during the regular season. The Sharks also eliminated the Wings last year in five games. Watch out for Ryan Clowe and Logan Couture as a powerful force on the Sharks.

The Sharks-Wings series will begin Friday in San Jose, with Game 2 on Sunday at 3 p.m.

Vancouver looked solid and on their way to annihalate the defending champs, but the Hawks found out how to play Luongo for a chance to defedng their turf. Fighting for a first round advancement, Alex Burrows buried the winning puck in net to grab the Canucks the series win, for the second year in a row. Ryan Kesler was also nominated for a Selke for his awesome season. Just like the Sharks, the Canucks got their workout but are propelled by adrenaline.

Nashville holds on to finally seek a Round 2 in the NHL playoffs. Anaheim was a tough hump to bump this season but give credit to Pekke Rinne who look unfazed most nights. Watch Rinne play against any team and the stun gun comes out as his stance rarely flusters. Barry Trotz, one heck of a coach, will see how his team rides the next curve with hometown boy and Hobey Baker winner, Blake Geoffrion. Smashville has smashed on through. This team is building a strong house.

The Vancouver-Nashville series is expected to start Thursday with a 9 p.m. game in Vancouver.

Western Conference final prediction: Detroit vs. Vancouver

I’m taking the Red Wings, because I always do. Vancouver deserves to battle it out with the best.

Ovechkin in, Pens out

Buffalo proved that goaltending does make a difference, but couldn’t surpass the fire of the Flyers. Miller had two shutouts in the series, but the tandem of Boucher and Leighton is brotherly love in true form. This has been a great series with higher scoring numbers. The Flyers wanted it more.

Boston and Montreal had quite a battle, but Boston moves on. Tim Thomas is a stable goaltender who will give the Philly boys a challenge. Boston is a good team, but the Flyers are scrappier.

The Philadelphi Flyers will face the Boston Bruins. The series will start Saturday afternoon at 3 EST. Classic east coast matchup.

Tampa Bay wouldn’t go away. With am 8-2 victory in Game 5 of the Pens-Lightning series, Tampa refused the exodus. That game was the turning point to rid the Pittsburgh Penguins a chance for the Cup. Sidney Crosby will recoup over the summer for a hopeful return in September. Tampa Bay’s victory is good news for the Southeast division and the growing hockey fandom down south. It’s also good for new GM Steve Yzerman. Goalie Dwayne Roloson was a great catch for Yzerman’s Lightining and will square off with the Caps rookie Neuvirth in goal. Tampa didn’t get the break as the Caps did.

Washington took back their spark beating the Rangers convincingly. This season, goalie Neuvirth illustrated his skill as former Calder Cup MVP. And he did it against Lundqvist who is the backbone of the Rangers. With Ryan Callahan out, the Rangers were down a man but the toughness expected of New York sputtered after two OT losses. Washington got a rest before the new clash in the East with their divisional rivals, the Lightining. Caps won 4 of 6 games during the regular season. This is a difficult series to predict.

Tampa will head to Washington on Friday to begin the series at 7 EST.

Eastern Conference final prediction: Tampa Bay vs. Philly

I’m riding the Lightining with their solid cast of Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Roloson. While Washington is good, the playoffs cause the Caps to fumble.

Congratulations Chicago!

The Chicago Blackhawks are the new Stanley Cup champions, and as a salute, I’ve compiled my thoughts throughout the season on the talent in Chicago.

Norris Trophy Candidate for best defenseman led directly to Duncan Keith who ranked second with career highs in goals (14), assists (55) and points (69). Keith played all 82 games this season for the third time in his five-years with the NHL. Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2002 NHL draft, Keith went in the second round as the 54th overall pick. Keith also won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Playing for the Team USA was Patrick Kane who drew more attention to the talent of the Blackhawks. Out of all the wingers, Kane was an anticipated star on the roster for crowds in Vancouver. Playing for the talented young Chicago Blackhawks, Kane has emerged with 64 points this year and a plus 17 rating.  He’s good and doesn’t make mistakes.

The Preseason reports could not ignore the emerging Blackhawks as Cup contenders. My pre-season rant of the Chicago Blackhawks- Take no prisoners.  Out for blood.  Now that the Hawks have Marian Hossa the team should be amazing. Right?  Let’s hope so after all the hoopla surrounding the team of Toews, Kane, Keith and some other good players that don’t get noticed as much:  Dave Bolland, Andrew Ladd, and Brent Seabrook.  Deep-dish pizzazz or digging deeper into a cheesy situation.

But one cannot ignore the quality players on the Chicago roster- great players for great fantasy teams. The stand-out for me this year was noted twice by me as a favorable fantasy pick:

Troy Brouwer (RW) Chicago Blackhawks.   If you don’t own a Blackhawk player, shame on you!  Pick one up now.  Brouwer is only 12% owned and may be your best Hawk bet right now as most of the team already has a spot on rosters.  His play has caught the attention of fantasy writer Matt Romig.

Troy Brouwer (RW) Chicago Blackhawks.   Chicago fans have had their down time, but this year the Hawks are a contending team who could be a challenge for San Jose.  Brouwer has been scoring and posted 19 PIMs in one game if you have a league where PIMs count.

Going into the playoffs, many hockey fans were not surprised by the Chicago run.The Blackhawks have been building from a dusty past. The surge in strength skipped a generation and is now a rip-roaring party for the new generation of Blackhawks fans. Dustin Bfugylien is the most underrated player on the team. His name is mentioned as a great player, but in the past he’s been a hit or miss. Now, his contribution to the team can explode further as he lends might and confidence to the game.

Captain Jonathan Toews has created cohesion within the team. Each game holds a goal, an assist or a hit from any one of the guys. The unsung hero is Joel Quenneville leaving the basement Avs and culminating in a conference championship two years after taking over in Chicago. And he’s going to the Stanley Cup playoffs. And Toews was named MVP and Stanley Cup Champion

Blackhawks Down, Flyers Up

The race for the Stanley Cup has pitted two unlikely picks to move forward, but both teams have some super powers to unleash which will make this unique combination a great series. The Chicago Blackhawks are ready to get down to business and bring the Cup home. The Flyers are pumped up and ready to get things started. So who’s going to hoist it this year?

The Blackhawks have been building from a dusty past. The surge in strength skipped a generation and is now a rip-roaring party for the new generation of Blackhawks fans. Dustin Bfugylien is the most underrated player on the team. His name is mentioned as a great player, but in the past he’s been a hit or miss. Now, his contribution to the team can explode further as he lends might and confidence to the game.

Captain Jonathan Toews has created cohesion within the team. Each game holds a goal, an assist or a hit from any one of the guys. The unsung hero is Joel Quenneville leaving the basement Avs and culminating in a conference championship two years after taking over in Chicago. And he’s going to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Good luck Chicago, who is the heavy favorite, but the Flyers will stick it to you. You can’t underestimate the talent that has been brewing in Philly either. With similar goaltending issues, the story is on the group dynamics. The Flyers have a cohesive team and good depth as any one of those guys could score at any time. I’m not making predictions, but I’m more interested in watching the Flyers play. I’m also rooting for University of Denver alum, Matt Carle. I watched him play at the Ritchie Center and have been following him San Jose to Philly.

When the series gets heated, look forward to some scrappiness from Bfugylien, Eager, Hartnell and Carcillo. Though the odds in Vegas scream Chicago, I’m not betting on anyone. The Blackhawks are not viewing this as a walk in the park either. A series win for Chicago would mean so much on so many levels. Philly can’t believe they are still playing this season. The expectations need to be put aside for now. It’s anyone’s game.